Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) came to La Vuelta 23 to defend his overall victory from 2022 and he immediately showed how strong he is this year again. On day 3, the Belgian superstar dominated the first summit finish of the 78th edition of the Spanish Grand Tour, atop the unprecedented ascent of Arinsal in Andorra.
Not only did he get the best of Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) on the line, he also took La Roja as the new overall leader of the race. Enric Mas (Movistar) and French wonderkid Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) are his closest rivals in the general classification.
With a sunny start and high summits looming on the horizon, attackers launch a very hard battle for the break. It takes a flurry of accelerations and more than 35 kilometres for nine riders to escape: Damiano Caruso, Jasha Sütterlin (Bahrain Victorious), Amanuel Gehbreigzabhier (Lidl-Trek), Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Eduardo Sepulveda (Lotto Dstny), Andrea Vendrame (AG2R Citroën), Rune Herregodts (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) and Jon Barrenetxea (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA).
After 60 kilometres of hard racing, Mathis Le Berre (Arkea-Samsic) and Jose Manuel Diaz (Burgos-BH) join the earlier attackers to make it a 11-man breakaway. The gap is at its maximum: 5 minutes. And Damiano Caruso, a podium finisher in the Giro, only trailed by 23’’ in the overall standings ahead of the stage. Jumbo-Visma, Soudal Quick-Step and Ineos Grenadiers react and pull the bunch.
Caruso ups the ante
The race enters Andorra with 51.4km to go and the gap is down to under 3 minutes at the bottom of cat-1 climb to Coll d’Ordino (8.9km at 5.1%, leading to an altitude of 1,980m). Caruso ups the ante at the front. Only Sepulveda and Kämna can keep up while DSM-Firmenich drive the bunch.
Romain Bardet (DSM-Firmenich) sets off in the last 2 kilometres of ascent but Jumbo-Visma, Soudal Quick-Step and UAE Team Emirates control his moves. They trail by 1’05’’ at Coll d’Ordino (21.4km to go).
Evenepoel powers to La Roja
Caruso sets the pace on the downhill and Sepulveda is dropped. At the bottom of the final and unprecedented climb to Arinsal (8.3km at 7.7%), Caruso and Kämna are 1’20’’ away from the GC group. After a series of attacks, the German baroudeur eventually drops the Italian climber with 3km to go. Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) drives the bunch with a gap of 30’’.
Kämna is caught by nine riders with 2 kilometres to go. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) tries to counter-attack. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) controls his move… But nobody can match Remco Evenepoel’s acceleration inside the last 200 metres. The Belgian superstar powers to the stage win and claims La Roja. – www.lavuelta.es